Column - Despite loss, Mountaineers much better since start of the season
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012 00:02
Coming into the 2011-12 season, not much was expected from the West Virginia women's basketball team. With the departure of seniors such as Liz Repella and Sarah Miles and not much experience returning, it was difficult to gauge the potential of this team.
After defeats to St. Bonaventure, Cal State-Northridge and Duquesne during the first month of the season, many, including myself, thought struggles would be on the horizon in Big East Conference play.
Then, five straight victories – three over ranked opponents – proved head coach Mike Carey, and the Mountaineers had turned things around.
On Saturday afternoon, West Virginia looked well on its way to a fourth straight win over a ranked opponent when it led No. 24 DePaul 38-24 at the half. The Blue Demons shot nearly 70 percent in one of wildest second halves at the Coliseum to steal a 77-63 win.
Despite the difficult loss by the Mountaineers, one thing is clear – this team is drastically better than it was early in the season.
West Virginia has won nine Big East Conference games with three remaining.
Amazingly, last year's bunch made it all the way up to No. 6 in the national rankings but only finished with eight conference wins.
With a young team, sometimes the bad taste after a loss is something that can linger for a few games.
It is essential for Carey and his staff to not let the team dwell on the loss to the Blue Demons.
The final three games remaining on the schedule are all winnable, and the Mountaineers could put themselves in position just behind Notre Dame and Connecticut in the standings going into the Big East Conference tournament in Hartford, Conn.
Also, with only one senior on the roster who rarely sees the floor, this is great opportunity for the program to improve one game at a time and gather momentum heading forward.
I didn't even mention Carey has a top-15 recruiting class set to come to Morgantown in the fall.
With this being said, West Virginia is playing its best basketball of the season despite the meltdown against DePaul.
The Mountaineers have been presented with a great opportunity to have one of their most successful regular seasons in Big East play in recent years.
They must get past the loss to DePaul quickly.
They have proven their abilities and have expectations to meet.